I had planned to update the blog over the weekend. However a few hours ago, a bomb went off at Domodedovo Airport, killing 35 people, (that number’s correct at the time of writing, it keeps changing) and I wanted to set things down whilst they were still fresh in my mind.
Before I begin, I’m going to ask for a little faith on your part, because I’m going to start by talking about how I’m dressed. Really, I’m not trying to reduce disaster to the trivial or twist someone else’s tragedy into a text about myself, I’m actually getting ready to make a point. It’s just that it won’t be immediately apparent, so I’m going to need you to work with me.
I always dress badly. I always have and, at 38, I can confidently predict that I probably always will. However, today, even by my own poor standards, was a new low. This is why the Caucasian guy who runs one of the kiosks near here found himself laughing so hard at me that it was all he could do to take my order. Don’t misunderstand me, he wasn’t being deliberately offensive, I spend quite a bit of time talking with the guy and, as much as my Russian will allow, telling him about life in the UK and working here. Chances are, even if I’m not ordering food from him, he’ll shout out and wave as I pass by. I like him.
That he’s Caucasian is significant because, again, tensions here are on the rise and, after today, I can only guess what’s going to happen. It seems there’s already an acceptance that those from the Caucuses are somehow responsible for today’s tragedy. Let’s not kid ourselves, it would probably be naive to think otherwise. However, today’s events can only help fuel the ever-growing number of far right nationalist groups that seem to be emerging with every passing day. Let me reach over and open this week’s Moscow News, (www.themoscownews.com). The lead story is of the protests surrounding the trial of the two Ultra Nationalists accused of gunning down human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasia Baburova. The story below that concerns the reactions amongst the Caucasian youth groups in response to the rise in Ultra Nationalist violence and some speculation as to what’s going to happen next. A bomb at Domodedovo Airport has just answered that.
So, given this, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Moscow is in the grip of an all-consuming terror; punch drunk and reeling from today’s atrocity. Maybe I’m wrong about this, (really, if you think otherwise, just tell me) but I’m not sensing that. I’m aware that nearly everything I put in this blog seems to come accompanied by a ready army of qualifiers and caveats, however, for once, I’ll make myself clear; Moscow makes you feel small. Big things happen here. Big things on epic scales. Think about it, the course of the 20th Century was pretty much defined by what was happening here. It’s even big to look at. The high rises tower over you wherever you go and whatever you’re doing. It reduces that most Western of attributes, the overriding sense of your own significance, to little. That most valuable of all Western commodities, the value of the individual, doesn’t have quite the same caché here. All that is left for the individual therefore, is to concentrate on what is to be done next and make life as good as it can be. I think what I’m trying to say is that there are very large and very powerful forces at work right now. However, they’re forces that are external to most people and their lives. That most of them will be affected in some manner is almost certain. However, as individuals, all that can be done is to continue as before. It’s like I said in the previous post; the routine is everything.
Certainly, from talking to my students, to watching the usual mass of bored and sleeping faces on the Metro home, I can’t see much evidence of any overriding panic. Of course, some people are nervous. Mostly people are just sympathetic to those that lost their lives today. Mostly, I get the sense of people watching events from the sidelines. Each wondering what ‘they’ will do next about ‘them’ and each trying to work out how they might be affected.
Which takes me back to the Caucasian guy at the kiosk. As I was making my way home from work, trudging through the snow and the ice, trying to put my thoughts in order before writing this blog, I was interrupted by a voice from across the street, shouting something about Glasgow Celtic and there he was, craning over the heads of the people queuing at his kiosk; taking the piss out of me.
It’s true that there is a race problem here and it’s true that there is tension, mistrust and the ever-present threat of violence throughout the city. It’s just not here, it’s not in the every day, and perhaps there’s some cause for hope in that.